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Attention teenage vegans: How do younger vegans cope?
If you are vegan and your family isn't, what happens at meal times?
What happens when you go out to eat?
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I ran into a former high school student yesterday while shopping at a local supermarket. Towards the end of the last school year, I taught a vegetarian unit to my advanced class. I began this unit by showing them a documentary, Vegucated.

If you haven't seen Vegucated, it's a great film. The producer who is vegan, found 3 non-vegan New York City residents and challenged them to go on a vegan diet. In addition to education about nutrition, they learned about vegan cuisine from a chef, went shopping for vegan foods that resembled non-vegan food products they enjoyed, and visited some farms.

After watching this film and completing the 2 week unit, this student whom I will refer to as Rosa (not her real name), announced that she wanted to be a vegan.

I had concerns about this because we live in rural Arizona. There are no local vegetarian restaurants and unless you're a lacto-ovo vegetarian, it's easy to starve if you're invited out to eat with friends because there's almost nothing suitable for a vegan on any of the menus.

On top of that, the local supermarkets are not vegan friendly. Shopping for groceries can be a challenge since every ingredient listing has to be scrutinized. Much of what I stock in my pantry is ordered on-line and I typically restrict purchases at local stores to selected canned goods, fresh fruit and vegetables, soy cheese, and soy milk.

One supermarket, Basha's, has a health food section that isn't labelled and is discretely tucked away in the far corner of the store. The health food section contains some basic vegan food stuffs ... TVP, flax seeds, gluten etc. but these products are much more expensive than what I purchase on-line. Shipping charges are generally not a problem. Most of my supplies either come from Amazon (which offers free shipping to Prime members) or Bulkfoods.com which offers UPS ground shipping for just $5 for any order over $75 total.

Anyway - the school year ended and the students took off. I ran into Rosa at the supermarket the other day and surprise-surprise, she wasn't able to stay vegan during the summer.

Her father did not approve of this dietary choice but instead of arguing with his teenage daughter which would just have gotten her dander up, he took the family out to a local STEAK HOUSE for dinner.

Rosa initially ate a plain baked potato and a salad. That's all that was available for a vegan.
Her family chowed down on T-bone steaks and before dinner was over, Rosa had broken down and ordered a T-bone steak as well.

I was sorry that Rosa fell off the proverbial wagon but this was not unexpected. It isn't easy to be a vegan in a rural area. Rosa had no support system. Her family essentially told her that she could eat whatever they served or go hungry. Since she's a teenager, she didn't have much money to purchase her own groceries and even if she did, local supplies are very limited.

As a high school teacher, I find myself wondering how younger vegans cope. If you are vegan and your family isn't what happens at meal times? What happens when you go out to eat?

When I became vegan, it wasn't too much of a struggle for me. I'm a bachelor, so I don't have to accommodate anyone else during meals. Although all of my friends are non-vegan, I've learned to eat before going out with them to dinner since the local restaurants are not vegan friendly.

I had one experience similar to Rosa's ... going to a local restaurant and realizing that the only thing I could eat was a plain bean tostada with lettuce and tomatoes. I couldn't even have the salsa because it contained sugar. That was a miserable meal that was made worse by the fact that my friends were chowing down on their non-vegan meals with gusto.

Ah well ...

Responses (2)

  • Report Abuse

    Posted by happycowgirl at 07/23/13 23:24:58

    You raise a very important issue. My personal observations have been that parents can make or break a child's desire to go veg*n. If parents support the decision, the kids I have seen usually stick with it.

  • Report Abuse

    Posted by ahimsa32fa at 08/28/13 05:09:42

    Perhaps her reasons for trying the vegan diet were not adequate. I became a vegetarian in 1975 for health reasons, but soon after I began learning about the devastating effect on the environment that the meat and dairy industry have, how this contributes to human starvation, and finally, the incredible suffering non-human animals experience in the meat/dairy industries.

    Awareness of these four basic reasons makes becoming and remaining vegan much easier.